Friday, 28 March 2014

Frugal Friday...

OK, I must confess, the last few weeks have been anything BUT Frugal - lots of diesel going to and from Lincolnshire taking photos, MrEH's car needing replacing, and generally taking our eyes off the ball a bit. There's not been frittering of money going on, or wasting of money, but it's just all felt a little like we've been spending more than we're comfortable with - and after all, that's the key thing when it comes to your own finances isn't it - what YOU are comfortable with.

Not sure I'd be comfortable with this...
When it comes to all things financial, I've come to the conclusion that really, you need to have at least a nugget of consciousness on it a fair amount of the time. You could call it planning, I guess - I know when I meal plan for example, not only do we spend less on food, but our meals are more imaginative too. When you book travel in advance it generally comes up a bit cheaper, although sometimes (as in our travel back from Orkney) finding that you've "missed the boat" (or in this case, the plane) can prompt you to actually find an even better value solution that works for you. And there's another key thing to do with finances - finding what works for you. Sometimes biding your time can be the way to go, in fact - our cheap fix for our electricity is coming to an end soon. I checked out the Money Saving Expert site and it's "Cheap Energy Club" a few weeks ago, and there were clearly deals out there that might work for us - one option is to switch provider again (meaning cashback, and a deal which has no exit fees should we want to jump ship) and the other option being to stay with our current provider but move to a new tariff - however this would be one which will have an exit fee and with the market currently looking pretty competitive, we were unsure whether that was the right deal for us. We decided to bide our time - at this time of year (the heating is now off - we're just using the oil-filled radiator when we need to to take the chill off) we don't use vast amounts of electricity anyway, and with the clocks due to change shortly our useage will drop still further as things like morning showers will be taken during the cheap power slot. Moving onto a standard tariff for a while isn't ideal, no, but it won't cost us a fortune extra either, and with the announcement this week from SSE that they are to be freezing their energy prices voluntarily until 2016, it's starting to look as though our decision to hold off from changing might be the right one - with energy companies, where one leads, others usually follow, and the likelihood seems to be that this might provoke a bit of a price-war.

Summer's coming...meaning electricity bills start dropping!
Another area where there seems to be a bit of a price war going on at the moment is at the petrol pumps - anyone else noticed that prices have been creeping downwards over the past few weeks? Diesel locally was costing £1.36:9 a litre a couple of months ago - that same Petrol Station that we use as our benchmark currently has a price of £1.32:9 advertised - not a huge saving, but over a 50l tank (as mine is) that's £2 a time. With the recent Budget confirming that the freeze on fuel duty continues, we really should be back to the days when the At-The-Pump price tracks the cost of crude oil - although I strongly suspect that this won't happen as previous drops in the price of oil over the past few years have made little difference. We maximise the savings we can make by keeping track of which companies fuel the cars seem to run best on (something we need to do again for MrEH's car now), paying on the cashback credit card (1p back per £1 spent) and using loyalty cards where they are available. So far the replacement car is already looking as though it may be more fuel-efficient than the old one, which will be useful - it will take a tank or two to know for sure though.
Looking forward to more beautiful scenery in Orkney...
The theme for the next few weeks needs to be getting our eye back on the ball, I think. We're off to Orkney in a few weeks of course - the spending money for that is set aside and we just have ferries still to book. The price on those doesn't change even if we book last minute, so we're not worried about those, and still hold out a slim hope that we might win a set in the VisitScotland "Brilliant Islands" giveaway.  I needed a new memory card for my camera and was able to take advantage of a mis-pricing on a website I've bought from before - getting myself a 16gb card for the usual price of an 8gb. I wondered whether they would honour the order, but full marks to them, they have - so a big heap of praise to 7DayShop for that. The levels in the freezer and storecupboard continue to fall - we re-stocked on our favourite brand of baked beans at the weekend though when Lidl had 4 tins for 94p in their weekend offers. We need to shuffle some of our holiday spending money across from the account it's sitting in across to the Holiday account, continuing to keep grocery shopping spends nice and low means that the holiday spending budget is well and truly sorted - a good 2 months ahead of us setting off, and it's a great incentive to continue shopping carefully and cooking from scratch, when we know that everything we save on our £150 a month food budget can go towards nice meals out and tea & cake when we're in the Hebrides! We'll continue to keep a close watch on what is going on in the energy market, and will strike when the time is right for us to secure a new deal there,

Have you taken your eye off the ball and found it a problem?



Marksgran said...

Unfortunately I often take my eye off the ball :( I get lazy and leave things as they are when I should be moving and shaking things up! One thing I will say though regarding cheap travel is to be careful who you book with. We have booked our soon to be trip through a well known website. We've used them before but only for hotels but this time its the flights, accommodation etc. Turns out they are rubbish at customer service if you have a problem! I have sworn in future not to use them but as they tend to be cheapest, its hard to resist. It will be ok if everything goes to plan but if not ..... !

Scarlet said...

I try not to take my eye off the ball these days- for us it spells disaster due to being on such a tight budget.
It always strikes me that you have a lovely balance to your life; saving on some things so that you can spend on the things that matter to you and which you enjoy.You're still living, not wearing a hair shirt. x

Robyn said...

Aargh - MG I always think travel stuff is a nightmare - with things like flights you want to book all through one place so if there is a delay mid-trip everything falls into place, but equally that can often cost more and the temptation is naturally to go with what seems the best value - naturally hotel bookings come with less problems than a whole package of things and there was no way you could have known your chosen company's limitations in advance.
Scarlet - that's absolutely the plan so I'm really glad it comes across. I've said before I cringe when I people saying that they're not living their life until "after..." - paying the mortgage off or whatever - we none of us know what's round the next corner.
You'll be pleased to hear that the blog post worked to kick my butt into action - we now have a new gas supplier and the electricity is under discussion!